Two Soldiers, Scarred by the Same Battle, Reunite 10 Years Later

PHOTO: Tomas Young, in the foreground, was paralyzed from the chest down by a snipers bullet in 2004 in Iraq.
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One soldier saved the life of another, keeping his comrade calm after he had been shot and paralyzed during a firefight. It came during some of the worst fighting American troops had seen in the Iraq war. Almost 10 years had gone by since the two had seen each other.

Tomas Young was just 24 years old when he was paralyzed from the chest down by a sniper's bullet in 2004, less than a week after he arrived in Iraq. Robert Miltenberger, the 38-year-old staff sergeant, kept Young alive, but also calm in battle by telling him a compassionate lie.

Young was medevaced out of Iraq shortly after being wounded. Young and Miltenberger would not see each other again until ABC News recently brought them together, along with their wives, for a reunion in Portland, Ore.

Tomas' Story: Change of Heart

More than eight months ago, Tomas Young was "ready to go," as he put it.

Wounded Iraq Vet Prepares to Die

After almost 10 years of struggling with a paralyzed body, deteriorating health, a regimen of dozens of pills a day, intense abdominal pain that led to the removal of his colon -- and on top of all that, a pulmonary brain embolism in 2008 that made him even less mobile -- he decided he was done fighting. That decision, he realized, meant he could be abstaining from medicine, food and water for weeks until he died.

But then he had a change of heart.

Young says despite his continued health struggles he changed his mind, deciding he wants to "spend as much time as I can" with his wife, Claudia, who, he added, has done an "immense job."

After several surgeries over the past decade, Young's health stabilized enough for the two to move to Portland from Kansas City in September to start a new life. Not much has changed physically, but Young has decided to keep fighting.

"If it weren't for her, I would have done myself in a long time ago," Young told ABC News' chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz at his new home in Portland.

"Since she's come into my life, I'm happier than I've ever been and I want to leave her alone for as short a time as possible.... I love her and my love for her is stronger than my desire to kill myself, to end my life and so it's either going to happen naturally or it will become too much to bear and I'll end it my own way," Young said, looking at his wife with his piercing blue eyes.

"Black Sunday"

Young joined the Army just two days after Sept. 11, 2001, and assumed he would be sent to Afghanistan, but on April 4, 2004 he was in Sadr City, Iraq. Known as Black Sunday to those who fought that day and to the families back home, Young and over a dozen others loaded into an open top truck to try and rescue a platoon pinned down in Sadr City. It wasn't long before they came under withering gunfire.

PHOTO: Tomas Young is shown here in uniform in 2003.
Courtesy Tomas Young
PHOTO: Tomas Young is shown here in uniform in 2003.

Most of the men in the truck were wounded, but Miltenberger administered first aid and kept his hands on open wounds to try and stop the bleeding while continuing to fight the enemy. No one was killed in Miltenberger's truck, but eight men would die that day and dozens were wounded.

Miltenberger had never been in combat before and had taken only one combat life-saving course. He was awarded a silver star for his bravery.

The bullet that hit the 24-year-old Young found its way around his body armor and under his left collar bone, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the chest down. Miltenberger was not shot, but is still plagued by the unseen wounds of war. He continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt all these years later.

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